Why has my vision deteriorated?
Vision tends to deteriorate as you get older. In fact, Vision Initiative estimates that the number of people affected by vision loss triples with each decade over the age of 40. That’s because the lens inside your eye becomes less elastic with age, which makes it harder to focus on close objects.
Most vision loss is because of five main conditions.
Refractive error is the most common eye disorder, where your eyes can’t clearly focus on close-by objects (hyperopia), far-away objects (myopia), or written words (presbyopia).
Refractive error changes are often gradual, worsen over time, and can affect people of all ages – although presbyopia is more common in people over 40. The disorder is generally corrected by glasses or contact lenses as prescribed by your optometrist. Regular eye tests will keep track of any further deterioration.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD creates blind spots in the centre of your vision, which significantly impairs your driving ability. As the name suggests, it’s a disease heavily associated with ageing, with your risk tripling with every decade you age after 40. Macular Disease Foundation Australia estimates that one in seven Australians over the age of 50 years have some evidence of AMD. A range of treatment options exist, but AMD must be detected early via regular eye exams to help limit vision loss.
Glaucoma is type of eye disease that damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss that often starts with your peripheral (side) vision. It is usually so gradual that only half of Australians with glaucoma know they have it, according to Vision Initiative.
Pople aged 40 or over are more at risk, with people aged over 70 three times more likely to develop glaucoma than those aged 40. Treatment options exist to slow the rate of vision loss so you can maintain vision throughout life. Regular eye exam complete with an optic nerve check and eye pressure check can diagnose glaucoma before vision loss.
Cataracts slowly cloud the lens inside your eye, eventually resulting in blurred vision that may not improve with prescription glasses. People with cataracts may also be more sensitive to bright lights, such as headlights when driving at night, or notice that colours appear more yellow or brown.
Most cataracts are a result of ageing and long-term exposure to UV light. By wearing sunglasses and a broad brim hat outdoors, you can reduce your risk of getting cataracts. Regular eye tests can also detect early cataract formations. Once cataracts worsen, a common and very safe surgery can be performed by an ophthalmologist that replaces the cloudy lens with a new synthetic lens.
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy: an eye disease that affects the retina’s blood vessels at the back of your eye and eventually causes patchy vision loss. All diabetics are at risk, but carefully controlled diabetes, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle reduces the risk.
It’s very important to have eye exams with a retina check every one to two years if you are diagnosed with diabetes, especially because there are often no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Vision Initiative reports that early detection and treatment can prevent about 98 per cent of severe vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy.